Monday, February 2, 2009

True Confessions

After our two services yesterday morning, I headed out with several other guys to go to the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. It's about an 11 hour drive from East Lansing to Minneapolis so we decided to stop over night in Wisconsin. It was a fun drive and a fun night with five other guys I really like and respect. And we saw a good part of a great Super Bowl.

After the Super Bowl, NBC went right into an hour long episode of The Office. My relationship with The Office has had a lot of ups and downs. I don't set the show as appointment viewing. But it's the only non-sports show on television that I ever watch. It's absolutely hilarious at times, and my wife likes the Jim/Pam relationship thing. So we've watched it from time to time.

So, on the one hand, I think the show is very funny. Its satire of corporate America and its ingenious characters always provide many opportunities to laugh aloud. But on the other hand, the sexual innuendo, sexual sin, sexual perversity, and sexual talk, always give me reasons to cringe. So over the past few years I've been up and down about the office. At times I've really enjoyed it and have even been thankful for its humor as a gift from God. At other times I've mentioned to others (including our college students a college retreat) about how it offends my conscience.

Well, after watching last night's episode--which made me laugh uproariously at several spots--I think I need to pay more attention to my conscience. I'm not trying to make viewing decisions for every other Christian. It's unwise to lay down absolute entertainment standards for everyone else. All I know is that after watching The Office last night I did not love Christ more; I was not more ready to worship him; I was not more aware of the closeness of God; I did not feel like I was obeying the command "Be holy as I am holy." It felt more like worldliness to me.

Again, I laughed a lot. And maybe other people handle the sexual stuff in a different way. But for me, I can't, in good conscience, give thanks for what I saw last night--and the ability to give thanks is the crucial test for gray areas of Christian liberty. As we get ready for a great Pastor's Conference I couldn't help but think about pastors of old. Did George Whitefield get to be George Whitefield by listening to an endless stream of sexual jokes? Would Calvin or Spurgeon or Athanasius dared to have watched The Office. Different times, sure, but most people in our culture, myself included, are more apt to define deviancy down than to live in fearful prudishness.

Let each person be convinced in his own mind. But my mind right now says The Office is not good for my sanctification. And that means its not good for me, my family, or my church.


Dave Warner said...

Kevin I couldn't agree with you MORE. I have many Christian friends who love to watch the office, I have to say that I have never watched an episode, but I like you know my propensity to watch things that play into my sin. I love humor, however, today you can only get humor on t.v. with sexual innuendos and crass comments. So on facebook I posed a question to all my friends to email and tell me how I am going to grow closer to Christ by watching this show. The best response I got was "Yeah there is really nothing good that comes out of it except that it is funny, and yes most times it is raunchy funny, however, all the shows on t.v. are like that so that's why we watch it." So basically today as Christians we have accepted this mentality of "if it is alright to be on t.v. it must be o.k. for me to watch." May more people be convicted of what we spend our time watching.

Andrew said...

thanks for this post

i was thoroughly rebuked, encouraged, and exhorted to uphold a 1 Corinthians 10:31 lifestyle.

Michael Krahn said...


I feel exactly the same way. I WANT to watch it, I laugh a lot when I've seen it, but I don't find any redeeming qualities.. and I end up being tempted to say "That's what she said" at various points in the day... which is not a good habit for a pastor to get into.

Michael Krahn

Aaron said...

Thanks Kevin,

I respect you guys for listening to your consciences, and am challenged by you.

I guess I feel like last night's episode was not especially perverse for me. There were a few lines during the "roast" that were off color. But, on the whole, I was not offended by it.

In fact, last night was one of the only times all week that I laughed out loud. I was able to give thanks for the show. (thanks for the reminder of the importance of that attitude in these situations)

I just finished reading Genesis in my personal study, and I found last nights episode to be much less explicit than the book of Genesis. Now, I know that sexual content is not celebrated or laughed at in Genesis (most of the time). But, I felt like even last night many of the more edgy jokes were used to get us to laugh at how ridiculous and petty we sometimes are. . . a good reminder for all of us.

That being said, I'm not at odds with any of the other comments and appreciate you guys and your commitment to purity.


Demian Farnworth said...

Matt Chandler said something to that affect about asking that question: Is what we are doing making us love Christ more or not? If it's not, then it's questionable.

Frankly, I support you 100%.

Michael Morgan said...

Do you really watch TV expecting to see non-believers behave like believers? Is it so surprising when they don't that you're caused to stumble in your Christian life? If that's the case, how can you engage in culture at all?
This line of thinking, asking should we watch/listen to things that are 'worldly,' all too easily leads to a Christian ghetto, where Christians insulate themselves in a world of apparent piety and filter out anything that contains anything 'non-Christian' (which would be nearly everything). This can lead to three problems. 1) People can start to apply a law-based righteousness, if they just listen to the right things, watch the right things, don't say the wrong things, etc. then they'll be counted righteous. 2) Christians become a bunch of people who don't know how to speak Truth into a culture they're completely disengaged from. 3) A distinction arises between 'Christian' entertainment and 'Secular' entertainment and it's easy for the world to ignore anything that could have redeeming qualities because Christians have so effectively marginalized themselves in culture. Remember, God found it acceptable to leave the moral purity of heaven and enter the moral turpitude of Earth when he put on flesh as the Christ. He ate with sinners, and probably heard some dirty jokes yet still lived without sin, and still lived among sinners and carried out His mission perfectly. That gives me faith in a Christian's ability to engage in culture without losing their soul.
We ought to remember Paul's words: All things are permissible for me, but all things are not beneficial. I think, as Christians, our call is not to be quick to abandon culture, but to grow in maturity in our faith and grow in discernment to be able to engage in culture, decipher the things that are helpful vs. unhelpful, give God thanks for the parts you enjoy and consider the things you find troubling as you seek to understand the heart of a lost world.

ZSB said...

I'm gonna have to agree with Michael Morgan. Maybe I've gone totally "worldly" or something, but I don't remember much in last night's episode that could be considered eutropalia--especially not in light of St. Paul's jokes about wishing circumcision-obsessed Judaizers would "go all the way" and emasculate themselves (edit: I just remembered the fake Jack Black "movie" within the episode, which was admittedly a bit much).

Do I love Jesus more after my wife and I laugh our heads off at Dwight's fake fire, Stanley's "stress-meter" that gets louder and faster in direct proportion to Michael's proximity, and Michael getting his feelings hurt at a roast which he himself scheduled and planned? Meh. Probably not. At least not as a result of the show. Same thing could be said of the Super Bowl. Or the weather forecast on the 11 o'clock news. Or the Jack Johnson CD I'm listening to right now. Jack's not singing about Jesus or even modeling biblical values, but his guitar and voice are masterfully imaging his Creator, albeit with a fractured ikon. I have to wonder if perhaps Paul even stopped for just a second to admire the skilled and beautiful sculpting of the unknown god before using it as a connecting point with the Athenians.

I'm not usually a "balance is the answer" kinda guy, but I think there has to be a line walked between the Emergent/PoMo view (which the pyros summed up as "Culture: it's not what your parents thought it was. It's every cheesy and lowbrow fad they would've called worldly. 'Engage' it" and the Anabaptist view that builds up walls around the church so we can live in a bubble... Where's the line? I guess that's where discernment and the Holy Spirit come in. It sounds like you really shouldn't be watching the Office. And don't worry; I've got all 7 seasons on DVD, so if you change your mind, you can always catch up later.


d said...


Glad to see that you're posting regularly!


mikewittmer said...


Good point. I also wonder about the racy commercials that accompany football games, especially when they're on Fox. There's a lot of smut to wade through to watch your team lose (I assume you're a Lions fan).

Murf said...

You REALLY step into a quagmire here Kevin, if your standard for doing anything is "does it make me love Christ more."

Does watching sports on television make you love Christ more?

Does reading "The Revolutionary Road" (as opposed to watching it) make you love Christ more then if you had watched the movie? Is reading about sexual innuendo/encounters purer than watching it?

I admire and commend your stance on not watching The Office, but philosophically it seems to me to be splitting hairs. Sports are good, but sexual innuendo is bad. Violence is okay as well (I'm betting). Does watching THAT make you love Christ more?

It seems to me that your position needs some strengthening...or more thought.

m b redmond said...


Dude, that is a weird reaction. He is not binding your conscience or demanding an explanation from you and yet you are making a judgment call on his conscience and then telling him to think more and strengthen his position.

It is weird how other's convictions cause us to be so defensive.

Bam-Bam said...

Michael's points put the right tension back into the discussion. Zack, your great, but i think i just read a lot of spoilers from you :-(

gatogordo said...

Thanks for posting this, Kevin. I look forward to reading this blog!

Now I have a question for Murf: First, what do you suggest in the way of strengthening Kevin's position?
Second, what do you make of the word "all" when Paul writes, "whatever you do, whether eating or drinking, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus"?


ZSB said...

Oh, man! I forgot about the Tivo crowd!!! I APOLOGIZE. Next time, I shall post the proper spoiler alerts... I myself almost skipped the show in favor of delayed Internet viewing, as it was getting quite late.

Oh, and, for the record (before I get lumped in), I definitely don't think Kevin needs to "strengthen" his position. It seems quite strong to me: built on his reading of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit in his conscience. As Martin Luther said, "to go against conscience is neither right nor safe."

undivine said...

Ah, the hornet's nest of cultural indulgence vs. loving Christ more. Went through this over here ( a month or so back. To tell you the truth, I came the same conclusion about "The Office" a long time ago. In fact, any sitcom with such sexual overtones is just not palatable for me nor does it benefit my sanctification. I know, that sounds thoughtless, uncultured or condescending. Am I really better enough than all the devotees of this show (or any other show for that matter) to be able to say such things? No. Probably just the opposite, I am worse. For very weighty reasons I will not go into here, any situation involving sexuality and the workplace is stomach-turningly devoid of humor for me. Now, on the other hand, I do enjoy the more sci-fi shows with twisted plots, like Lost. Revenge, murder, time-travel, intrigue...those are the stuff that I can get in to because it appeals to MY depraved mind. And it is just plain entertaining. Dangerous? Well, if I get fired up by watching Sawyer choke the guy who killed his parents while saying "You want to go to hell? You want to go to hell?" maybe that is where watching something like that crosses the line into harming my sanctification. One of my favorite scenes is the Inigo Montoya revenge scene in the Princess Bride. "Offer me anything..." yeah, it probably crosses the line in my heart. So I can certainly see how entertainment, undiscerningly applied to the depraved mind and heart, can have a negative influence on a person's sanctification and why the good Reverend here comes to this conclusion.

By the way, glad to see you're blogging, Rev.

Nathan said...

I must admit I have always been a bit confused by the "I watch this to engage culture" argument. A couple of questions come to mind when I hear that line of reasoning.

How far do I have to submerge myself in the base elements of culture in order to engage it?

What does cultural engagement based on watching The Office look like?

In the first question I am not necessarily calling The Office a base element of culture...more asking the question about a general principle.

For the second question I am wondering about specific cultural engagement based on my time watching The Office.

stephenwillcox said...

I was in a group of married couples watching the Super Bowl. After the Super Bowl we began to watch the office as well. When the scene with Mr. Black and the older lady came on my friend picked up the remote and turned off the tv. My friend was taking a gamble of getting crap from everyone for being a holy roller. But he did it anyways. I thought about it and prayed about it and the next day I went directly to him to thank him. I respected his zeal for the Lord and for holiness. I also was convicted of my lack of obedience to Christ.

It should also be noted that some may not be offended by things on tv in which they should be. because their consciences have been seared by living in worldliness. I am not opposed to Christian liberty, however, we do not have liberty where Scripture clearly states we do not.

No Christian should willfully put himself in a place of potential sexual temptation or perversion for the purposed of entertainment. As Christians we are called to follow in David's footsteps who said he would put no unclean thin before his eyes. The Office is "unclean."

ZSB said...

David didn't put any unclean thing in front of his eyes??? What abridged Bible are you reading??

I believe you're thinking of Job, who made a covenant with his eyes.

I thought the Office was hilarious. However, I do recognize that this is a "disputable matter," and will therefore be careful not to use my Christian liberty in this matter to cause my weaker brother to stumble.

E. said...

There are a number of redeeming qualities in the show, the most obvious being the treatment of Michael. It's so painful to watch how idiotic and rude this guy is, but you always end up feeling SO BAD for him. It's a nice reminder that all people (even the annoying ones who seem to invite ridicule--or literally do by scheduling their own roast) are made in God's image and all deserve a bit of grace and love. Also, the relationship that Jim and Pam have (besides living together out of wedlock, which we should expect from unbelievers--does this seriously surprise us?) is the most loving and stable and selfless one I think you'll see in prime time. They are great examples of how to treat your partner. So there are two examples, and I'm sure I could come up with many more. Nearly every episode has a good message and they are not that hard to find if you're not too busy being legalistic about it.

Hayden said...

Everyone should pick up a copy of "Worldliness" edited by CJ Mahaney. There are some excellent principles in it! Remember, though thankfully I haven't heard the charge leveled at Kevin, a legalist is not someone that has 'more conservative convictions than you'. Just because Kevin is convicted about this does not mean that he is 'less developed' or 'less studied' than you. I appreciate Kevin's writings and have always found them to be well studied (though I have never met him).

Kevin, I too struggle with this from time to time, not with the office but with other shows. Thanks for wading into this pool.

Justin Vance said...

Kevin, can you expand a little on the "ability to give thanks" idea when referencing the grey areas of Christian Liberty?

I look forward to following your blog and conversations.

Justin Vance

Mark said...

I stumbled across your blog and am enjoying it, old friend!

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